Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: grief sucks

Come, Sit, Grieve…..Repeat

Matt,   I could never have imagined the impact your death would have on every aspect of my life.   Never did I ever think my grief would turn me into a leper.   It seems people are terrified of those who are grieving.   Scared to death of contact with me or have that famous opinion on how long grief should last.   I’m guessing my time is up.  Even strangers run when I bring up addiction and your death.   It’s almost that I carry a contagious disease and if they get close enough they will carry it home to their family.   Like the flu, only worse.

Unfortunately, your disease still carries an ugly stigma.   I see the look on peoples faces when they learn how you died.   They can’t get away fast enough.   Quickly changing the subject as they scurry away.   I feel like I have that huge A branded on my forehead.  Except my A stands for Addiction.    I still find it mind boggling that even today as we continue to lose people from all walks of life  Addiction is still thought of as a dirty mans disease.

Experts on grief tell you to find a support group.   Sounds easy right.  I had a better chance of being struck by lightening.  You see Matt,  my grief comes with a ton of baggage.   All those what if’s and I should have’s cling to my heart and take turns tearing little pieces away.   Death due to overdose comes with such regret.   Things said and done dance with those things not said and not done.   Until you have lived that rollercoaster with your child one could ever understand the helplessness and hopelessness parents feel as we struggle to save our kids.   Death from overdose is unlike any other loss.   Not only do we struggle with grief but the stigma continues to rear its ugly head throwing daggers in our direction.

My attempts to find that group where I would fit in was futile.   Believe me I tried for several months.   I sat next to mothers who lost their children to cancer and felt the compassion ooze around the room.   I remember sitting there feeling that all familiar tightness grip my throat.   Then it was death by car accident.   Once again compassion.   I wanted to be Alice and slide down that rabbit hole.   I wanted to be Jeannie wiggling my nose and disappearing into thin air.   I wanted to be anywhere but in that room when I said that ugly word and felt the compassion wash away with the breaths of shock and stares.

Then it was off to another group that actually dealt with addiction.   Oh I had such high hopes.   Finally a group that got it.   Imagine my surprise when I was subjected to another parent beaming with joy.   My mind whirling as I realized this group was largely made up of parents who’s kids were either in recovery or still active in their addiction.   My mind whirling, my gut revolting as I heard her voice praising God for saving her child.   I felt like I’d been slapped.   How dare God save her child and not mine.   I remember wanting to run.   Wanting once again to disappear.   I made myself sit for an hour hearing more stories of recovery.   Stories of continued struggles that I knew too well.   I left sobbing and defeated.

I hid for months, licking my wounds feeling isolated and alone.   I scoured bookstores.   My shelves now lined with books on grief and grieving.   Reading the stories of other parents whose children also died from addiction gave me the push I needed.   I once read that when God closes one door, He opens another.   As a nurse I’ve spend many years holding hands and shedding tears with people who have lost their loved ones.   As a NICU nurse I’ve also helped grieving parents say goodbye to their child.   I remember praying asking God what my purpose was now that you were gone.   I spent the last 7 years fighting to save you.   Now I had all this time to discover my new path.

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Support After Addiction Death (SAD) was born on a rainy, bitter day.   Sitting at my computer I designed a pamphlet.   Explaining how and why I was starting a support group exclusively for parents who lost a child to the misunderstood disease of addiction.   Our pastor offered our church.   The same church I said my final goodbye to you.   The same church where your ashes were scattered in the garden I tend as we celebrated your first birthday in Heaven.

Today I have a new family.   Mothers and fathers who know and live the same grief that envelopes my life.   We gather together and shed our tears.  Our eyes mirror images of unfathomable  pain.   Lifting each other on those dark days when one of us is drowning.   I look into their eyes and know no words are necessary.   We have lived the nightmare.   Our ending is not the one we dreamed of but together we find strength in the blessing of finding each other.   There is no shame, no stigma.   Sharing pieces of our broken hearts we begin to slowly heal.   Our children gone but never forgotten.   Pictures are shared.   Birthdays are remembered.   Names are spoken.   Many tears are shed.   Memories are cherished.

God did close the door for me when it came to saving you.   God also opened a new world where I can once more reach out, offer a hug and just show up.   Grief doesn’t scare this group.   Grief is a part of who we are.  Grief is the unwanted, unspeakable place that bonds us more than blood.  As long as I live I will be grateful for the people who say your name, offer a hug and stay……….

 

 

 

 

Why Is This Grief So Complicated?????

Matt,  This complicated grief is nothing like the grief people who have never experienced think it is.  Most people, at least some of the people I’ve come in contact with still think grief has a time frame.  Supposedly, normal grief is still thought of as something you glide through.  Going from one stage to the next until you reach the finish line.  After that so called specific acceptable time frame, the grief just disappears into thin air.  Like magic, poof, it’s gone.  Life then supposedly returns to normal.

Unlike the so called “normal” grief, complicated grief doesn’t seem to follow a time line.   It doesn’t seem to care that it’s been years.  It seems that time can continue to pass and complicated grief just clings tightly to your heart.   Complicated grief is usually associated with the loss of a child.   This grief is unbearably devastating.

What makes this grief so tough is that I find you have to constantly defend it.  People will bring up how long it’s been.  Oh yes, believe me I know how long its been.   So does every other parent who has lived through the death of their child.  What I don’t understand is why how long its been should have any impact on how long or how deep a parent continues to grieve.

The loss of a child goes against mother nature.  Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.   The loss of a child shatters the foundation of what we have been taught to be normal in our world.   The loss of a child rocks parents to their core.   We begin to question everything we have learned throughout our lifetime.   We question our faith.   We wonder how a loving God could have allowed our child to die.   I remember my daily prayers.   Every morning and night I prayed to God for your safety.   I prayed for you to have the strength to beat your addiction.   I truly believed that if I let go and let God all would be ok.   Imagine how I felt when I got that life shattering call that you were gone.

I felt totally betrayed by my God.   I felt like I had done something so horrible that he was punishing me by allowing my greatest fear to come true.   I felt abandoned and alone.   I questioned every belief I’d ever known.   Feeling that I’d not only lost you but also lost my trust in how the world should be.   It’s taken years to rebuild my faith.   To know that God did answer my prayers.   He saved you not my way but his.   To this day God and I have an agreement.   We agree to disagree on answered prayers.

Through my grief I have found many blessings.   At first I felt abandoned, alone.   Many friends walked away and never looked back.   Apparently my grief made them uncomfortable.   Believing that I should get over it and get back to a so called “normal”.   They wondered how they could be around someone who was so deeply grieving.   Rather than helping me through they simply disappeared.   The years of friendship meant nothing.   Shared experiences all forgotten.  Grief scaring them so deeply it was safer to abandon a friend than to stand by her side.

Isolation is a large part of how grief becomes complicated.   I never believed what I’d heard.   But since living it I know it’s true.   People forget you are still here.   Forget you are trying to navigate through your new life.   Trying to figure out how to survive without your child.  Mourning the hopes and dreams once so alive now gone in the blink of an eye.  No more phone calls or visits,  just complete abandonment by people who were once considered close friends.   You wake up one day and it hits.  Not only have you lost a huge piece of your life, but you’ve also lost any connection to life outside your grief.

I also live that famous verse, “If God closes one door, He opens another”.    Through my grief I have found a new family.   Other women who like me have suffered the ultimate loss.   We share a bond and belong to a club we never wanted to join.   Finding peace and strength through our loss.   We lift each other on dark days.   There is no need to defend our grief.   No need to explain why those special days re-break our healing hearts.   The gift of these friendships are priceless.   Understanding that time does not heal all wounds.  That healing has no dead line.   That there is no shame in missing our children every day of our lives.  We are a gift to one another.

Being honest with myself is tough.   To realize that even after 3 years 2 months and 20 days I’m still shocked by your death.  To think that the years have passed without you here continues to take my breath away.   Simple things still cause deep pain.   A can of Beefaroni or hearing a song by Guns and Roses can be overwhelming.   There are days when seeing a father with his baby reminds me of things that will never be.

I’ve learned that grief is not a race to be run.   It’s a process to be survived.   A place to move through at our own pace.   Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.   My grief is mine alone.   It is not something I should ever have to defend or be ashamed of.   Grief is love that has been rerouted.   It lives in every fiber of our being.   Grief is how we love.   Love never dies.   It lasts forever.

So does Grief……………………………

 

Grief Doesn’t Keep Track Of Time

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Matt,  since your death, I’ve found that my grief doesn’t keep track of time, people do.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been made to feel like I am the crazy one.   Responses from people I hardly know continue to astound me.   I can feel my soul start to cringe as soon as I hear “Well it’s been, you should be”.   On bad days I just want to slap the shit right out of them.   I want them to feel my grief physically as I feel it everyday.

I just can’t understand how society thinks that grief has a time frame.   What is it about grieving people that scares people away?   Grief is not a disease.   Grief is not catchy.   Yet, people continue to think that as time goes on grief should let up and finally ride off into the sunset.   Like grief has a time table and an automatic shut off switch.  Like grief is some sort of mental disorder that should be over and done with in a specific time period.

The problem with grief is it’s tricky.    It finds you at unexpected moments.   On days I think I’m doing ok it finds me.   Days when I fool myself into thinking that society is right.   That it’s been and I should be.   During Yoga class or lunch with a friend it attacks unexpectedly.    The reality that I will never be the old me again, and no matter how hard I try to put up a fight grief always wins.   Grief is that monkey on my back.    It  hides and waits for the right time to show me who is in control.

People think that when you grieve there is something wrong with you.   Especially if your grief lasts longer than many think it should.   It’s like that acceptable timeframe for dating again after a divorce, grief is supposed to be short lived.   After all we all know life goes on.

I get so tired of feeling like there is something wrong with me.    Like I’m failing to follow those ridiculous stages of grief made famous by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.   I studied them in nursing school and bought into her thinking until grief slapped me to the ground with an unimaginable force I’d never known before your death.   Even Dr. Ross acknowledged before her own death that grief follows no path of rhyme or reason.   Grief ebbs, flows and shatters as it pleases.

I’ve learned that grief is selfish.   Not allowing me to think of anything other than my deep pain.   It’s like addiction.   It changed my brain.   I think differently.  I act differently.   Somedays I really don’t care what people think.   I’m struggling to survive this quicksand that surround every step I take.    I get tired of defending my grief.    For God’s sake, I lost my son.   How do I get over that.    How does a mother get over saying goodbye to her precious child.    Age doesn’t matter.   We are not supposed to bury our children.   Yet, society continues to think that child loss is something to put away.    That we can box up our grief and put it on a closet shelf like old family albums.   That grief is something to be controlled.

I am mentally exhausted  having to explain over and over again how losing you has shattered the fabric of my life.   I try to relate my grief to childbirth.   I can tell you how painful it is but until you experience it personally there is no way you could ever understand how intense the pain can become.   How this pain takes you away from reality and you scream thinking you will never survive.    This is my grief.   Silent screams everyday.    Screams as I wake and realize that another day is added to the tally of the days since you took your last breaths.    Screams as I look at your smiling face in pictures frozen in time.    Screams as I attend weddings and baby showers knowing they will never be for you.    Screams as I try to be normal as expected by society.   Screams as I tell your story to faces that have no clue.

I remember when people were afraid to mention the word cancer.   It became the big C.    It’s the same thing with grief.   Is it becoming the big G?   Our culture sees grief as a mess that needs to be cleaned up.   I see grief as something that now lives inside my soul.

Grief is not a problem to be solved.   Grieving people are not to be shamed, dismissed or judged.   Grieving is what mothers do when the natural order of their lives has been altered with the death of their child.   I never wanted to know grief as intimately as I do.   I never wanted to experience grief brain or constantly question my sanity.   I wanted you to live a beautiful life.   I wanted to meet your wife and rock your babies.   I wanted a reality that wasn’t to be.

I know I will never return to the person I once was.   Going back to that person is not an option.    She vanished when you did.   Gone with your last breath.   My grief path is my own.    It’s rocky and full of broken glass.   I tread lightly on days I can.   I crawl through the glass on days when the pain kills and I question my survival.    My grief has no finish line.   It’s one day, one breath, one scream at a time.    My grief is the best I can do.   Navigating this path is the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do.    One thing I know for sure is I’m not ok.   I will never be ok.   And for me that just has to be ok…….

 

This Roller Coaster Ride Called Life

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Matt,   The reality of your loss sucks.   There really is no pretty way to put it.   You are dead.   The order of my life has been altered beyond repair.   Everything has changed.   I have a deep pain that can never be fixed.   There is nothing that can be done to make this right.   Your death was out of order throwing my life into a place that makes no sense.

I feel like I’m back on that roller coaster.   The one we rode together during your active addiction.   One day things were great then the very next moment that unexpected sharp turn came out of nowhere throwing us off course and breathless.   I’m a mess.  Turned inside out.   Struggling to get through the next sharp turn.

This month has been brutal.   First, flying to Florida to defend your life.   I felt like my already broken heart had been drug over shards of glass.   Left torn and bleeding in my chest.   Being in the place you lived.   Walking the beach you walked knowing you were gone hit me with an ugly dose of reality.   You really died.   You are gone.   In that moment you took your last breath I was counting down the days left before I would see you again.   All the plans I made, the things we would do.   Lunch together.  Walking on your beach.   Me getting a glimpse into your new life.   Gone with your last breath.   Like a puff of smoke on a windy day.  Here for a moment, then gone forever.  That roller coaster once on the upswing, now forever twisting and turning leaving me unprepared for this gut punching grief.

My next event where I felt strapped to that horrible coaster was Beau’s wedding.   Your best friend.   The man who sat and sobbed in my kitchen after hearing the news of your death.   His tears broke my heart.   We shared our grief over your incredible loss.   I remember hearing his voice.   I’m getting married.   I want you to be there.   Oh God,  that punch hitting again.   How can I feel joy for this man who deserves so much happiness when I will never hear those words from you.

I remember feeling that familiar throat tightening pulling up to the church.   The ride was beginning and I was holding on for dear life.   My mind kept telling me that life does go on.   This was life and I must participate.   I felt the jolt as the coaster started upon entering the church.   The first twist was seeing Beau. So handsome as he approached holding out his arms to welcome me.   A second jolt as I felt his arms wrap around me.   For a brief second my fantasy won and it was you.   The hug my heart craves.   I closed my eyes hoping to stop the flow of tears.   Reality broke through as the car sped up hurling my heart to the ground.   You are gone.

I remained strapped in the mixed emotions of joy and grief.   The ride to the reception was filled with small talk.   What a nice wedding.   How handsome Beau was.   How he and his beautiful bride only deserved the best in life.   You were the elephant in the car.   Knowing if I spoke your name my coaster would hurl off the tracks and implode into space.   Seeing Beau standing with Mike hurled me into another unexpected curve.   That twist took my breath away and left me holding onto my sanity.   The missing musketeer.   You are gone.

My wedding anniversary.   Nine years on the 25th of October.   Married to an incredible man.  A man who stood by me as your addiction wove its way through our marriage pulling us through the hell you lived.   This man who never once gave up on either of us.   Your crazy mother who was slowly losing her mind fighting to save her addicted son.  Or you the man with the horrible disease.   He rode that roller coaster hanging on for dear life as our world was thrust into the unknown of where the ride would finally end.

This man and our day should have been number one on my mind.   Instead all I could think of was you.   How handsome you looked.   Your incredible smile as you took my hand and walked me down the aisle of our tiny church in the woods.    I remember your laugh watching the kids on the dance floor.   Our picture frozen in time.   You walking me into a new life.   I stare at us.   Both glowing with joy and happiness.

You are gone.  We will never walk into a church together again.   I will never feel the joy of watching you begin a new life.   I will never see you standing next to Mike or Beau as you take a bride.   The roller coaster of emotions has become my life.   One day I think I will make it.   The ride is climbing to a new height.   Feeling hopeful that one day this overwhelming pain will start to release its grip on my heart.   Just as suddenly an event, memory or smell sends the coaster crashing toward the ground leaving me holding on wondering if I will survive this unpredictable ride.

I’ve always hated roller coasters.  But you knew that.   You tricked me into getting on one and cracked up telling me how all you could hear from the ground was me screaming.   Matt,  I’m still screaming.   Silent screams as a new day begins without you.  I scream everyday as I try to navigate this life.   I scream not knowing where the twists and turns will leave me from one day to the next.   I scream your name in my mind as I’m whipped around so many unexpected curves continuously slapped with my reality.   You are gone…….

 

Screaming Through The Stages Of Grief

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Matt.   I remember being a nursing student and studying the 5 stages of grief.   The book On Death & Dying written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross became every nurses’ bible.   I studied each stage trying to understand the power of grief over our hearts and souls.   During my nursing career,  I became a witness to the grief experience as I helped many families say good bye to their loved ones.   The echo of screams and uncontrollable sobbing etched themselves forever into my brain.   I carried these experiences with me throughout my career.   Never once did I ever think I would be the one screaming.

My education consisted of the theory  that grief followed a straight path.   That we put one foot in front of the other as we climbed the steps from one stage to the next.   I always pictured grief as a linear process.   We had to pass one stage before we could emotionally handle the next.  Textbook grief was so well defined.   Like a Lego project, one step built upon the other until you reached the top and returned to the old you.   People were thought to be “returning to normal” or “getting on with life” after “surviving” all the firsts.   Grief was supposed to be a temporary place where hearts and souls healed.   Grief was like a passing ship.   The impact was felt as the wake hit the pier but soon the waters became calm again and supposedly life returned to “normal”.    I always felt grief was like an exam.   You had to start with the first question before you could get to the last question.

My grief theory was crushed on a snowy January day.   Grief found me.   You died and my world came crumbling down.   That supposedly predictable and orderly pattern that I studied made no sense now that I was the one living it.    To be honest nothing made sense.   30 months later nothing makes sense.

Your death has been such a devastating, disorienting time.   There are days I don’t know how I will ever reach that final step of Acceptance.   Really, am I supposed to just accept that your addiction killed you?   I’m just supposed to chalk it up to life.   I’m just supposed to accept that I can’t pick up the phone and hear your voice.   Accept that you left without warning.   Without a chance to hold you as you took your last breath as I did after you took your first?

I am stuck.   Denial and Anger hold my hands.   They are my constant companions.   Denial keeps me somewhat sane.   Anger fuels my desire to fight the broken system.   The system that let us down and let you die.   I was not prepared for the power of my grief.   I was not prepared to become a stranger to who I once was.   I was not prepared for the reflection staring back at me when I glance in a mirror.   Grief has washed my face and lives in my eyes.   Grief doesn’t know its stages.   It doesn’t know that after all “the firsts” I’m supposed to keep climbing that grief staircase until I get to the top and shout Hoorah I’m done.  I survived.   I made it through and to the top!

My grief is clever.   It’s tricky.   Letting me think that today will be ok.   Today I will be “normal”.   Today I will feel joy.   Today I will not be carrying its weight on my chest.  Today will be better.   Today my grief will be predictable.

The reality of my grief is floating on a tiny raft in a big unpredictable ocean.   Waves hit hard tossing me in the frigid water.   They pull away allowing me to catch my breath before hitting again.    My grief has me floating in a fog never knowing when it will sneak up.  Grief creeps up and squeezes me from behind as a memory hits or a song plays.   I’m dry eyed one minute, a sobbing mess the next.

I have learned in my reality there are no stages of grief.   Grief is a crapshoot.   It shifts and changes.   It’s never the same minute to minute, hour to hour.    Grief ebbs and flows.   Grief has it’s own mind.   It makes you feel like you’re losing what’s left of your mind.  Grief cannot be contained or controlled.     Grief has moved into my soul and I have no idea how to evict it.

 Grief is as unique as a fingerprint.   Grief has no set pattern.  However we survive is how we survive.   The only thing I’ve learned for sure is that until you meet grief you have no imaginable idea of it’s power over your life.   The other think I know for sure is that Grief Sucks!!!!!!!

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